Wednesday, January 23, 2013

From Jadaliyya

Brave Comrade Madawi Al-Rasheed:
"Madawi Al-Rasheed (MAR): First, the banality of superficial opinions on Saudi women that is so pervasive. In the public sphere, especially in the West, Saudi women are either superstars or victims of their own society and religion. I felt it was time to contribute to this debate from an academic perspective. I do not want to write a book that celebrates the achievement of Saudi women, seeks pity, or even condemns them to the duality of victim/survivor. As a woman with a Saudi background, I feel that we share with other women a certain degree of discrimination and have our own grievances as Saudis. I also feel uncomfortable with the category of “women” as a homogeneous undifferentiated mass. Class, ethnicity, and religious affiliations cut across this category that is varied, stratified, and experiences discrimination in different ways. So the book reflects my own personal journey first, and second, my academic interests.
My previous work always had an awareness of the construction of gender, and the role of women in politics, society, and religion. Since my PhD research in the 1980s, I allowed women their place in my political and historical narratives about the Saudi past and present. More recently, in A History of Saudi Arabia (2002 and 2010), I demonstrated how women feature in the legitimacy narratives of the state and its quest to merge with society as a result of marriage. In A Most Masculine State, I gave this awareness the attention it deserves by situating gender at the center of debates about politics and religion. I have thought about this book for years. It became an urgent project as the Saudi “woman question” has ceased to be merely a local issue and has become a truly global concern. This was an outcome of Saudi internal challenges and external pressure, especially after 9/11, when Saudi Arabia came to the forefront, not simply as an oil producing territory, but as a contested country."